Sunday, November 04, 2007

Is BYU a Top 25 Team?

I read an article recently about efforts of BYU's athletic department to lobby for votes in the national polls. I, as much as anyone, would of course like to see BYU re-join the Top 25. Unlike last year, though, I'm not sure that the team deserves to be ranked at this point.

A point could be made regarding the up-and-down year for many teams, and the fact that several three-loss teams have more votes than two loss-BYU, although each of them is a member of a so-called BCS conference (most being in the SEC, as it happens). I am also not sure that one-loss Boise State, ranked number 19, would beat BYU if they were to play. Nevertheless, the issue for BYU is one of decided under-performance. Earlier in the season, I felt that if the Cougars could just eliminate penalties and turnovers, they would play to a very high level. I also felt they would likely be unbeaten if not for those issues.

Somehow, though, they haven't reached their potential despite subsequently cutting down on penalties and turnovers. The had enough in them to convincingly defeat an Air Force team that wasn't as good as some were beginning to think. They showed some satisfying tenacity in winning at the home of a New Mexico team that had been playing solid football, and always gives them stiff competition. But the passing game struggled against UNLV, and they pounded their way on the ground to 24 points and a win. Against lower-division Eastern Washington, they ended up with 42 points, but one of those touchdowns came from an interception return, and the passing game was again not particularly effective--Max Hall completed only 50% of his passes. They should have had 42 points by halftime with an interception return factored in. Finally, the Cougars scored only 35 against struggling Colorado State yesterday. Perhaps I should give BYU the benefit of the doubt on that one, however, as CSU did soundly trounce UNLV in Las Vegas two weeks ago and, although they couldn't muster any offense against Utah, the Utes scored only 27 points against them. It may also be worth noting that the BYU team that routinely routed opponents last year could only manage 24 points against the Rams--who have been weak for some time now--so perhaps a low point total against CSU is not worthy of alarm.

Nevertheless, I will not be surprised if BYU is unable to crack the Top 25 until they are 8-2, with wins over TCU and Wyoming. More importantly, if they have not come to play "cleaner football", as Coach Mendenhall is fond of saying, they may very well lose--horror of horrors--to an improving Utah team the week after the Wyoming game. Then the desire for a national ranking will have to be put on hold for another year.

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